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What is Windows?

Windows is a program sold by the Microsoft Corporation that expands the memory, enhances the performance, and makes working with your microcomputer much easier. It accomplishes this by replacing the awkward commands of DOS with a helpful interface called a graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI manages the memory of your computer to allow it to utilize all of the memory available. Windows allows your computer to run an integrated environment where the different programs that you work with are readily available, all of the applications run consistently, and the different applications are easily linked to each other. It doesn't matter whether you are working with a wordprocessor, spreadsheet, database management system, graphics package, or telecommunications package; all of the applications show similar menus that are easy to use. The integrated environment lets you to transfer information between the applications effortlessly. This means that you will be able to generate a spreadsheet in Lotus 1-2-3 and copy that spreadsheet to WordPerfect as easily as copying text within one application package.

The graphical user interface allows you to communicate with your computer through easy-to-use menus and pictures called icons, instead of using those difficult DOS commands to run your application software. With the graphical user interface environment, you use a mouse with the keyboard to control the computer and the information on the screen. The graphical user interface also allows you to view the information produced by the application you are running exactly as it would show up when printed. This ability is called WYSIWYG, or "what you see is what you get".

Graphical User Interface

The hardware system requirements for Windows are: IBM or compatible microcomputer with at least 640K of RAM, DOS 3.1 or higher, a hard disk with at least 6 Meg of free space, a floppy disk drive, and a graphics monitor with an adapter card. A color monitor is preferred to take advantage of the different Windows screens and displays.

Windows allows you to run more than one application at the same time. This multitasking ability allows you to run as many applications as your memory will permit. The Windows environment gives your computer access to extended memory allowing the RAM memory to go beyond the conventional 640K, a limitation of computers of the past.

Windows is meant to run on a computer with an 80386 processor, but Microsoft has designed it to adapt to other types of procesors, with other sizes of RAM memory. It does this by switching to one of three modes of operation automatically. The different modes are: real, standard, and enhanced. Each mode is designed to get the maximum effectiveness out of your computer.

The real mode is designed for 8088 or 8086 processors. Windows, in this mode, is limited to 640K, which will eliminate the memory control, but will run some of the older Windows applications. The standard mode is designed for 80286 processors and will allow your computer to access the entire 16Mb of extended memory. You will be able to multitask with Windows application packages, or your computer will be able to run DOS-based applications, but not both simultaneously. In other words you can only run either Windows applications or DOS applications, but not both at the same time. The enhanced mode is designed to run on 80386 or 80386SX processors and allows your computer to access up to 4Gb of RAM. You will be able to multitask with both Windows and non-Windows (DOS) applications. Also, with the enhanced mode the processor of your computer uses a combination of RAM and the hard disk, giving you access to more computer memory than would normally be available.

The Windows program comes with built-in accessory programs which give you access to a word processing program called Write, a drawing program called Paintbrush, and a communications package titled Terminal. Other utilities built in include a clock, an appointment calendar, a cardfile, a calculator, a notepad, a macro recorder, and a PIF editor (Program Information File) which provides information that Windows needs to run non-Windows applications.

Starting Up

Once you start up Windows, you are in the Program Manager, the main area for all of the work you will do in the Windows program. Contained within the Program Manager are different utilities for managing files, controlling the display, controlling printing, managing the clipboard (which is used primarily to copy and move information), controlling Windows, and working with the DOS prompt if desired. The display of Windows is made up of actual bordered windows containing icons, (pictures) that indicate different utilities available.

There are two different types of userwindows available: application and document. Application windows contain the software programs that are currently being accessed, such as the Program Manager. A document window is an area inside an application window.

You will utilize the mouse to run Windows. There is an arrow icon indicating where the mouse is located on the screen. You will move, click, double click, and/or drag the mouse to input the different commands wished. There is also a menu bar at the top of the window which has commands designed to carry out a specific purpose. Housed within each command is a drop-down menu containing submenus for each command on the top line.

To start an application from the Program Manager, you no longer have to enter a DOS command, you only need to move the mouse to the icon depicting the application desired and double click the mouse. With the mouse, it is very easy to start the application, work with the application, move around the contents of the window, adjust the size and location of the window, close the window, utilize the commands and drop-down menus to perform a specific operation within the window, get help with Windows, and perform file management operations.

You may have a number of windows open at one time on the screen, with only one window being the active or current window. The active window is in the foreground with a different colored title bar than the rest of the windows. The windows may overlap each other, but the active window is always in the front of the inactive windows. To switch between windows, you only need to move the mouse indicator to the desired window and click the mouse making that window the active window and having it appear in the foreground.

Windows uses a series of group windows to organize the applications into similar categories. This works much like the arranging of subdirectories within DOS. The group window contains similar applications; a Non-Windows group will contain all of the DOS-type applications, while the Windows group will contain all of the Windows applications. Within each group window are program icons indicating the different applications stored on your microcomputer. It is easy to add or delete group windows or to add or delete program icons to your screen display. It is also easy to move, or copy, program icons between different group windows.

Easy Use, Numerous Features

Working with Windows is very easy. Commands that you would normally have trouble with in DOS, such as the creation of a subdirectory, or the copying of certain files between floppy disks, is a snap with the Windows environment and the use of the mouse. You no longer have to key-in the long DOS command. You need only click the mouse.

Write is the word processor that is included with Windows. It is a capable word processing application program that is very nice for the everyday jobs of an office worker such as the writing of memos, reports, and letters. However, it is a somewhat limited word processor. It does not include some of the advanced features of a full-blown word processor, such as a spell checking utility, a thesaurus, and a mail merge capability. Write makes it easy to edit text, move or copy text, change the appearance of text, format the document, change fonts and font sizes, and format paragraphs.

Paintbrush is the drawing program that is included with Windows. It is a graphics application that allows you to produce a wide assortment of drawings in a variety of formats, such as greeting cards, newsletters, and letterheads for documents. It is an uncomplicated application to use, with icons that are descriptive and easily understood. You can generate drawings or graphics using Paintbrush and integrate them into any of the other Windows application programs.

It is very simple to transfer information between applications. Windows uses a feature called the Clipboard to perform these transfers. The Clipboard is a part of the memory of the computer and is available to all applications. By using the Clipboard, you are able to combine text and graphics quickly and easily. Before such integration was possible, this endeavor was either very difficult or extremely time consuming. Also by way of the Clipboard, you are able to capture images directly from the monitor screen. When captured, the screen contents are copied onto the Clipboard and can be brought into any application as is, or may be edited by bringing the image into Paintbrush. This feature makes it easy to show others a captured picture of anything appearing on the desktop.

Terminal is a communications application that allows you to connect your computer to other computers and exchange information via a modem and standard telephone lines.

The Print Manager is also included with Windows. It is a utility program that controls the printing of all Windows applications. It runs in the background and will accept printing jobs at any time. This allows you to work on any application while a job is printing, eliminating the waiting for a job to print before continuing.

New Enhanced Version

Most recently, an enhanced version of Windows 3.0 has been released--Windows 3.1. This version features stronger network support, an improved Program Manager with a startup group, the ability to easily assign working directories, and a library of new icons for MS-DOS-based applications. A faster File Manager includes a quick format command, a vastly improved split window layout, and new and efficient ways to manipulate files. The enhancements also include user-defined shortcut keys, drag-and-drop printing and program launch, object linking and embedding technology to offer an easier way to share information between applications, built-in TrueType scalable fonts similar to Adobe Type Manager, greater overall stability and diagnostic tools, and better diagnosis of errors with more informative error messages.

Windows is an easy-to-run alternative to DOS, and will most assuredly be an influencing factor in the future. With all of its advantages, it makes the control of the computer very user friendly and uncomplicated. Try it. You will be pleasantly surprised.

JOSEPH C. OTTO, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of Office Systems and Business Education at California State University, Los Angeles.
COPYRIGHT 1992 California State University, Los Angeles
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Research Notes; Microsoft Corp. software program
Author:Otto, Joseph C.
Publication:Business Forum
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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